Source: Thomas Becker, UPEI Athletics
After a frustrating defensive effort the night before, the UPEI Panthers assured fans they have what it takes to stop other teams. The Panthers limited the Dalhousie Tigers to a frigid 27.3 per cent shooting to come away with a 59-43 win Saturday night.
Subway Player of the Game, Carolina Del Santo, finished with a monster double-double with 14 points and 20 rebounds, while anchoring UPEI's defence in the middle.
"I thought we defended pretty well," said head coach Greg Gould. "We didn't have a great offensive game, but if you defend, you always give yourself a chance to win."
Following three missed layups to begin the game, Del Santo kick-started the offence by scoring five consecutive points. Jenna Mae Ellsworth matched Del Santo's scoring punch with five as well, as the Panthers (11-9) opened up an 18-8 lead after one.
"We started to pound the ball inside when we had the advantage and it gave us confidence," Gould said.
After trading baskets for most of the second frame, Ellsworth took over and put up 10 of the next 12 points to help her team take control 36-19 at the break. She led all scorers with 15 of her game-high 19 points in the half.
Meanwhile, the Panthers' defence saw a marked improvement and held the Tigers to just 23.5 per cent shooting through two quarters.
Dalhousie (5-15) came out of the break strong and quickly trimmed the deficit to 40-30 behind an 11-4 run. Ashley Cain was the catalyst scoring seven of those 11 points.
UPEI laboured offensively throughout the third quarter, where they scored just eight points. The Tigers took full advantage and cut it to 44-35 by holding their opponent to 23.1 per cent shooting, while doubling them up on the score sheet 16-8.
The Panthers defence stepped up again in the fourth and limited Dalhousie to another eight-point quarter, as the home team came away with a 59-43 win.
UPEI is off to Halifax next where they'll compete for the AUS championship. The third-ranked Panthers will face the sixth-seeded UNB Varsity Reds in the quarter-finals on March 2 at 3 p.m.
To capture the elusive title, they'll have to put together three straight wins – a task they've only done once this season.
"We're focused on winning one game at a time, that's the way we talk," Gould said. "If we defend and rebound the way we did tonight, then we have a real shot at it."